tv [untitled] February 4, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
invited in the 14th amendment that was passed after the civil war. and let me also observe that as we begin the 150th celebration of the american civil war, there's an african-american president of the united states named barack obama who was elected with 66 million votes at a time when there were only 19 million african-americans registered to vote in the united states. and i tell people sometimes if all 19 million of us lived in chicago and could vote three times the way they do in chicago, mccain still would've beat us. so obama had to reach across the aisle and find people to vote for him in order for him to get elected president of the united states. he did what harriet tubman did with the underground railroad, what frederick douglass did, the american soldiers did when they joined the union army. they joined to help make this country a better place. so i wanted to say that in the beginning because i think that right there puts a very important opening on how we
begin this discussion about the centennial. time has changed in the united states and changed for good reasons, changed for the better, and i think the -- the moral of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. i want to say as we start, and let me back up for a minute and say the african-american civil war museum located here in washington, d.c. has african-americans who joined president lincoln in civil war to help him save the nation, keep the united under one flag and end slavery. lists the names of 2,500 hispanic surnames. these were mixed up with these african-american soldiers. there's also 7,800 names of the officers, white officers who commanded these soldiers, african-americans couldn't be
officers, those names were listed among the regiment and one was shaw that you know from the movie "glory" the neighborhood where the monument exists was named for shaw. the shaw junior high school over around the corner is the lincoln theater. over there is the william garrison school. so this whole neighborhood is related to what happened after the civil war. but i wanted to point that out to say that this monument now represents more of what the neighborhood looks like. it's an integrated monument with blacks and latinos and looks like the coalition that helped president obama get elected president of the united states. now, we opened a new exhibit in july which now includes a number of things. among them is a bill of sale. and i think the gentleman has referred to this, for a woman sold for $1,000 back in 1854, and if you put $1,000 times 3.9
million slaves which is the number during the civil war, that's almost $4 billion in 1860 money. slavery's never going to end without a war. it's never going to end without a war. so it's too important to the american economy. one writer said it represented 72% of the economy in the country that includes not just the value of the slaves themselves, but the cotton they pick and corn and tobacco and these things get put into commerce and the banks that finance it and the insurance companies that insure it. the whole economy's tied up with this thing. so you get this slavery tied up in civil war now. one of the things i brought with me today. i brought the declaration of secession from state of south carolina. which i'd like to read sometimes and i thought i'd take a couple minutes of my time to read that today because south carolina says this war -- they started the war. and by the way, if a fight were to break up in this room, as soon as the police get here and settle everything, the first question would be who started this? that's right.
president lincoln started the war. as a matter of fact, you know -- south carolina seceded from the union. president lincoln hadn't been sworn in yet. they seceded in 1860, president lincoln doesn't get sworn in into march. as a matter of fact, when the war started, when frederick douglass declared the war started, frederick douglass said, i wish the north had started this war. in other words, i was there -- cared enough about our freedom so they would have started this war. since they didn't care to start this, david blight, he said thank god for the slave holders. that's right, somebody had to start this. you can't finish what you don't start. somebody had to start this. and so he said somebody had to start this. and harriet tubman said god ain't going to let president lincoln win until he does the right thing. now south carolina started this war and they say that the constitution of the united states in the article provides
as follows. this was south carolina's article of secession. no persons held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof escaping to another shall in consequence of any law or regulation be charged from service of labor but shall be delivered upon claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due. and then they go on to say that -- they said if that provision -- as a matter of fact, let me finish the next sentence. this stipulation was so material to the compact -- now they're talking about the compact that forms this nation, that without it that compact would not have been made. the greater number of the contracting parties and they had previously in their estimate of the value of such of the stipulation of making the condition in the government of this territory seceded by virginia, which now composes the state north of the ohio river. now they go on to talk about
they name these states, be y th way that are violating the slave act, which is not allowing them to go into their territories to collect their slaves when their slaves run away. they name these states. they say the state of maine, new hampshire, vermont, connecticut, rhode island, new york, all these northern states that are violating that section of the of the constitution, which they signed on to when they join the union. and south carolina says we didn't leave the union, the union left us. and therefore, now -- i don't know, david blight, how historians can say the civil war was not about slavery. i don't know what they were reading. because if i found it, you all can find it. and texas was even more ridiculous. texas said slavery was important to white civilization. that's right. mississippi said we can't --
you've got to have black people down here. so first, before we can -- so the civil war was about slavery. the people who started it said it was about slavery. they seceded from the union, they formed this. now, secondly, there would come a time when lincoln would realize he can't win this war without doing something about slavery. and he used the instrumentality of the emancipation proclamation. he used the extraordinary powers of the president which the president has when somebody declares war because these states had formed their own country and they were committing treason against the united states. he uses the emancipation proclamation in september 22nd, 1862 to take effect january 1st. now having been a council member here in d.c. for a number of years, when you pass a law, you have to give people time to adjust to the new law. so september till january 1 is almost 100 days. and he says to the south, if you put down your arms, come back
into the union by january 1, things will be as they were. what does as they were mean? you can keep your slaves. if you don't do that by january 1, paragraph six says persons of suitable conditions will be brought into the union army. and i was born in georgia, and i grew up there, i was in the civil rights movement there and mississippi a few years. i think it's one of the reasons why my brother in the south have so much trouble accepting this. because the states had more african-americans living there than they had slaves, than they have white people. and this emancipation proclamation only applied to those states that were in rebellion and only applied to those states. so what does that paragraph mean? persons of suitable conditions brought into the union army? i'm going to arm the slaves. so on the wall of the memorial there's 200,000 names, 150,000 of them were slaves when the war started. 150,000, 2 out of 3 -- i mean 3
out of 4 slaves when the swwar started. not only did president lincoln need these people to win the war, and there was a great story about one of them robert smalls who starts out in the state of virginia, i mean south carolina, he starts out working for the confederat confederates. he was hired out by his owner to -- contract laborer working for the confederates. he wasn't being paid, his owner was being paid. he was going to take the ship and turn it over to the union army. he becomes a soldier with the union army. when the war's over, he goes back home as a war hero, gets elected and eventually to the united states congress, as a congressman. so those people with a myth about african-americans joining the confederate army, they weren't about to arm them because they know what happened to robert smalls, right? robert smalls not only shows up at the union army, he shows up with his own weapon. and he becomes -- he shows up
with his own weapon. he brought his own weapon to the fight. not only did he bring his knowledge, but he brought his weapon to the fight. so not only does president lincoln need these african-americans to help him win this war -- and by the way, by the time they put richmond under siege in virginia during the civil war, the united states general grant assembles the 25th army corps, which is 25,000 african-american soldiers. they're part of the siege of richmond and that's the 25th army corps is chasing robert e. lee on his way to appomattox. they flank him on the southwest side and it's that southwest side he's trying to break out of there to go out and join johnson in north carolina. 25,000 african-american soldiers. at that point lee had 20,000 men in his own army. that's right.
one writer said, david blight, that the general pulled these soldiers back so robert e. lee wouldn't have to suffer the indignity of surrendering to an african-american. first you win the war, now you've got to win the peace so you don't want to offend the dignity of the south's number one. well, sometimes we can manipulate history to get it to go the way we want to. and i think people thought we were never going to learn how to read these documents. let me make one other point about this. and that is that -- i said not only president lincoln needed these soldiers in order to win the war, but also needed them to win the peace. if you read over further into the secession document, each one of these states calls themselves into assembly, official meetings of their state and they rescinded the articles of confederation in meeting in
order to call what they call disunion, to leave the union. how are you going to get those states baaing in the union? you've got to pass the 15th amendment. the only loyal people down in those states that are going to rejoin this union are the african-americans. the defeated confederates and that are disenfranchised because when you commit treason against the united states, you lose your citizenship. if any of you all are thinking about that, you better rethink it. so if any of you are thinking about joining that candidate talking about seceding from the union, don't do that, you'll lose your citizenship and then the commander in chief of the united states army now is barack obama. you think abraham lincoln did something down there -- so i just wanted to share that story with you because part of what we have to do is get the stories straight about how this all happened. the congress passes the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the
constitution. the 13th amendment ends slavery, the 14th amendment makes african-americans citizens of the united states. and of course, you know, we get following that in 1896, the dred scott decision -- i mean ferguson decision that says that plessy versus ferguson that says you can have equality, you can have freedom and citizenship where you have what they call absolute equality among citizens in a separate but equal society. and i was born in that separate but equal society, and it was that i was fighting in in 1961 when they had the sequescentennial of the emancipation of the civil war and i'm happy to be able to sit here today as we start to discuss the -- i'm sorry of the civil war, the 150th of the
civil war at a time when there is an african-american president of the united states that proves not only that the war was important and ending slavery and african-americans played a pivotal role in that but it was also important in keeping this country united under one flag. and i'm glad to know we live in a country where we have a whole robust discussion even today about the direction this country is going in and we're all now at a point where we can all vote for -- and by voting express our opinion about the direction this america ought to go in. this land that we love. and so i'm very pleased to be able to join in this discussion because i think it is a great step, leap forward for what we have seen here in america over the last 100 years. as i said earlier, this road to progress is a road we're all traveling on. i think it's really -- it can't be turned back. we've gone too far forward to turn it back. and not only is america a
country we can be proud of here on these shores, but people all over the world now look up to this country for leadership and dedication and direction. and i'm pleased to say that we have worked out our differences here enough now that we at least got a chance, at least we feel we have as much of a chance as anybody else in making this country the country we all dreamt it would be. thank you very much, and i look forward to your questions. >> a great response to the brilliance of these presentations. this panel of five people includes people who were born in the states of virginia, georgia, ohio, and massachusetts. i think my memory is correct on that. you're in michigan? well, that's even worse.
that's right. the fact that we're talking about these things is very important, but even more important is the fact that we identify to some real extent with the places of our upbringing. that is especially a characteristic of southerners so called provincial mind. as i think about the historians who brought this meeting together, though, i feel that i would like to recommend that more of us americans read their works in such a way as to let our public rhetoric match better the historical conclusions of those works. i have some suggestions of some issues or some parameters along with we ought to talk better in this society about the civil war. the first had already been covered pretty well. namely respect for the cost of the war to both sides.
i sometimes have to remember that of the 620,000 men who lost their lives in the civil war on the battlefield or afterwards, some 60% of them were northerners. north paid the cost in a way that a lot of southerners do not quite acknowledge. this came home to me not so long ago, well just before i came to new york city to live. in a talk i gave in a sunday school class. i said in the process of talking about the prayer that christians like to pray, forgive us our debts. maybe is it time to forgive the sins of general sherman against the city of atlanta? and i think you would not believe how strong a unanimous chorus of no came forth from that nice sunday school class.
atlantans remember their city was destroyed. not always in the northern memory is that destruction acknowledged very much. i can assure you that southerners remember that. and as all of us remember, those things in our past that were most hurtful, not quite so understood, especially in the southern memory or some of the statistics that had been annunciated in this panel. if 70% of america's wealth was invested in slaves and in cotton plantations. when both plantations and the slave status were destroyed, a lot of wealth went down the drain. to say that it was well lost, is what very few of us in the south have been trained to say. and it's high time we did say it.
and in that respect, the second thing i'd like to think we need more respect for, and that is the benefits of northern victory in the war. one of my favorite people is that veteran of the confederate armies in north carolina who in 1940 died and it was said in his obituary that he had often been known to remark that he was glad the north won the war because it saved our union. now that's a kind of a far western north carolina view because there were a lot of republicans out there during the civil war. but to be glad for defeat is not easy. some have said that learning what defeat is really a kind of a southern specialty. a specialty that i think has a lot of pertinence to this country's wrestle with the vietnam war. at any rate, to be glad that
your opponent won the war is not an easy thing to come by. the problem with this memory for some of us in the south is we're not glad enough for others who won the war in a different dimension. and that is these 4 million slaves. i have to say as a native virginii virginian, i was disappointed in the governor of my native state who last spring i believe declared it was time to have that month of honor to the confederate armies. i do not remember that there was anything in his declaration which suggested how glad virginians ought to be that the victory of the north in the war among other things has put black legislatures in that richmond legislature now for the first time in history. the ultimate output was along that line. i look forward that -- to the
time in which a governor of virginia on january 1st, 2013, will celebrate the emancipation proclamation on behalf of all virginiians. that it seems to me it would be a way of respecting the real benefits of outcome of the civil war. i like very much what president ayers has said about the city of richmond where three years of my graduate education took place at that other union theological seminary. richmond is a city which is on the way toward acknowledging its history with the help of some people who are in this room. perhaps the best symbol of that that i know of is the statue of arthur ash on monument avenue that was put up after a great political local discussion.
he's on that monument avenue as sort of the last statue in the long line of confederate generals who were standing up there on their horses too. it was not those confederate generals that liberated the ancestors of arthur ashe. it was ulysses s. grant and company that liberated those ancestors, that statue now stands there. altogether fitting, especially for underlying the ambiguity of a great deal of our memories of the civil war as southerners. that's another thing i wish we could get more into our public rhetoric. and that is honest ambivalence and willingness to be ambiguous about those loyalties that shape this country from its past. another one of my favorite southerners was that nameless
soldier whom shelby identifies as being part of longstreet's army. marching along and the soldier was tagging along at the end of a column. and as he trudged there, longstreet came up on his horse and with some compassion said, you think you'll make it, soldier? and he replied, yeah, general, i think i'll make it. but i hopes to god i never loves another country. times in my own life as an american citizen where i wonder about that. i wonder about that in my basic infantry training in alabama. named after a general that most alabamans may not know too well but may if they knew his history might like him pretty well because he dragged his feet also when he came to making war on richmond. at any rate, that we have some
reasons for ambivalence is for me a very important part of learning from history. learning from historians like the ones on this panel. i have to say that -- i have to admire what general grant said at appomattox as right after he had signed that -- that end of the war with general lee. in his journal he said, i felt sad and depressed at the downfall of this foe who had fought so long and so valiantly and suffered so much for a cause that was, i believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought. now, most northerners have no problem believing that it was one of the worst causes that was ever fought for. not a whole lot of northerners have that same kind of compassion for the people who gave their lives and much of
their wealth to a cause that was not worth sacrificing all that much for. again, i think american history has enough defeats in it so that learning you can have compassion for the people who fought against you, but you may have to decide that the fight was not worth fighting for. along the same line, it seems to me we need in our public rhetoric a great deal more appreciation of the mood of irony. it is irony that arthur ashe is standing there tall with his tennis racket on monument avenue. it's also an irony that we are in this meeting here in a city, washington, d.c., which was the subject of what joseph ellis calls the most important dinner party in the history of the united states. the party in which james madison, thomas jefferson, and alexander hamilton met around
jefferson's dinner table to see if they could decide in 1790 whether or not the federal government should be charged or permitted to assume the war debt of the revolution. and that was feared especially by virginia politicians because they didn't want to federal government to be that centrally involved in the economics of the new nation. as a compromise or as a way of making it possible to yield to alexander hammiltohamilton's faf the proposal, jefferson and madison urged that the new national capital be located as it is now on the banks of the potomac. and you look at that right now, that's full of irony. joseph ellis said by selecting the potomac location, they had decided to separate the political and financial capitals of the united states, washington and new york. the exciting synergy of
institutional life in our all-purpose metropolis, new york, was deem less important than the corruptions likely to inflict the financiers. if you don't feel the irony about that one in the year 2011, you haven't been reading the newspapers or believing them. these are -- that agreement, of course, jefferson thought would be a way whereby as ellis puts it that they would not abandon the new government of the united states, but they would capture it, like a new capital, it would become an extension of virginia. which was virginia, both virginia and massachusetts ambitions for the future of this tr well, irony may not be the most
popular mood for political rhetoric, but seems to me we will find that lot of it in history if we believe it. next to last, it seems to me, we need a lot more respect in this country for compromise and especially the difference between the compromisable and the uncompromisable. i think you can write a great deal of political history of this country on the themes of conflict and the connections of liberty, justice, and peace. very often when some kind of conflict happens in the rhetoric and in the legislation of this country, it's the partisans of justice versus the partisans of liberty. my teacher at yale used to say that when you look at the history of the supreme court, you wonder whether the national bird ought to have been the eagle. he said the better national bird might be the duck.
because ducks while and the supreme court found through history always waddle between liberty and justice. and somehow you've got to put those two together. you can hardly do it without ambiguity nor compromise. the word compromise is in bad repute now and rhetoric of american politicians, and those of us in religion have some blame to share for making that a bad word. i like the definition of compromise. the compromise is the process whereby each party of conflict gives up something dear, but not invaluable in order to get something which is truly invaluable. in the conflict between justice and liberty, often peace is what is invaluable, something. whether or not our politicians are architects of the compromises that permi u